This brightly coloured, wordless picture book imagines a girl entering an aquatic world and joining a mermaid clone in friendship and play. Toronto’s Geraldo Valério shows his talent and understanding of children’s ability to dream beyond the ordinary.
The plot celebrates imagination and friendship. A little girl and her frog go fishing, but when the prey don’t bite, they each see images of themselves in the water. The imaginary girl becomes a mermaid and is coloured opposite to the human girl. The theme that we are all the same, just different, is shown through the two girls’ happy adventures under water, concluding with them floating off with together, sporting matching pearl pendants.
Valério, originally from Brazil, trained there and in New York. His art has appeared in many books published internationally. He, himself, is the creator of many wordless picture books, including Turn on the Night and Blue Rider. In Friends, he uses pastels, colour pencil and acrylic paints to create the bright, purply-blue sea, vibrant green sea plants and curious yellow seahorses. The human girl’s flashy orange hair stands out vividly. Rounded and wavy lines mimic water currents and the comforting sensations water elicit.
The art is attractive, but young children will likely need an adult’s guidance to appreciate the nuances, plot development and lessons. As intriguing as it looks at first glance, the book’s lesson is short-lived without words to reinforce it. From an educator’s point of view, the plot of Friends would have limited use in a classroom, but Valério’s art could serve as an inspiration and example in a unit on friendship.
Harriet Zaidman is a children’s and freelance writer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her novel, City on Strike, is set in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike.